Film Music: The Neglected Art
, January 2011
Little did Frank and Hans realize the interest they would generate in the horror music they wrote for Universal in the late 30’s and 40’s as these themes/motifs which were created for Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, Mummy, and Invisible Man as well as other monsters and Sherlock Holmes. As a youngster I would record the audio in the 50’s on a reel to reel tape. I had clipped a wire on the speaker terminals of the TV which I had taken apart against the wishes of my parents. I would then be able to listen to all the underscore/motifs which were reused over and over again in many films. When John Morgan decided to orchestrate and record the different films in the 90’s I was first in line to get these Marco Polo releases.
Monster Music (Marco Polo 8.223747), released in 1996 featured Son of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man Returns, and The Wolfman which offers a wide range of styles of music ranging from romantic, to werewolf transformation cues under the full moon, the famous Ygor haunting woodwind solo, and the Frankenstein motif as well as familiar action cues used in the series. I got to know the material so well I knew what was happening on the screen just by listening to the music. I was quite the nerd when it came to this genre and these releases brought back all the memories of these films. A cue of particular interest from Son of Frankenstein was the creepy evil music for Ygor in “Discovery-Blute Solo”. Overall the score offers yearning strings and powerful brass passages when the monster is on the rampage. A good example of this is the beginning of the cue “Monster’s Rampage.”
The Invisible Man Returns offers a somewhat subdued score in comparision. The love theme introduced in the “Together” and expanded in “The Return” cue is a good one that could fit in any number of romantic situations horror movie or otherwise.
The Wolfman “Main Title” is a thing of beauty with the solo horn, organ, and a combination of tragedy and evil. “The Telescope” offers yet another poignant love theme which offers some hope on the screen for a little bit. But it isn’t long before we’re made aware of more of the story. The solo gypsy violin in “Wolf-Bane” leads into a classical passage that could very easily have been part of a symphony as well as the transformation motif in “Sir John’s Discovery” that ended up being used in the future wolfman series movies. “The Kill” is an action cue that was used in several yet to be made horror films and puts the right amount of tension on the screen to alarm the audience. Overall this was quite classical in nature and could easily have been expanded into something far more complex. The classical training of the Universal staff came up with something extraordinary and enhanced the film which became wildly popular.
The Naxos CD #8.557705 is exactly the same as the Marco Polo release with the exception of a few publicity photos included in the fine Bill Whitaker liner notes. In fact I suspect that John was as much of a nerd as I was and I’m grateful that he brought this material to CD. Enjoy. These were classical horror scores that made a good ‘B’ film even better.